Training camp has arrived and the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking forward to their first preseason game on Tuesday evening. After the weekend’s signing of Mitch Marner, his agent Darren Ferris made the interview tour around Toronto sharing some of what went on during the negotiations.
There’s stuff that Ferris won’t say, but I will share some of what he did say as well as some of the other news about the Maple Leafs training camp.
Item One: Marner Turned Down Two Offer Sheets Before Signing with Maple Leafs
When Marner’s agent was interviewed on TSN’s First Up morning show on Monday, he relayed that Marner received two offer sheets during the summer but rejected both because he wanted to remain a Maple Leafs. That was always Marner’s goal, and it was achieved.
Ferris noted that general manager Kyle Dubas knew about the offers, however he can’t say which teams made them.
“Mitch did not want to entertain them,” Ferris noted. He added, “Our goal, always, was to have Mitch play for the Maple Leafs and that’s what he wanted.” Ferris said 99 percent of the rumors on social media were made up, however, he and Dubas did throw “a lot of numbers” back and forth.
About heading to Switzerland, Ferris admitted he had contacted the Zurich Lions of the Swiss League and, if the negotiations had stretched out, Marner would have traveled there to train with the team.
Ferris wouldn’t comment on the fate of other restricted free agents, but he said that he didn’t think the current NHL salary cap system worked. He believes that teams are handcuffed and that they “have to be able to secure their star players and keep them long term.”
Those who have read my other posts about the Marner negotiations should note that I did not make one cynical comment in this section.
Item Two: Rasmus Sandin Plans to Make the Maple Leafs Roster
Many hockey people believe Rasmus Sandin, a 2018 first-round draft pick, should spend one more season honing his craft with the Toronto Marlies. Sandin isn’t one of them. He wants a crack at the Maple Leafs’ blue line and points to his 13 playoff starts last season as
He noted that playing with the Marlies “was different than the OHL,” but he also believes he “got settled in pretty quick and learned a lot.” Probably the biggest setback he had last season was a sprained elbow that sidelined him after the World Junior Championships.
This summer, he spent time hanging around other Maple Leafs players and working hard to improve his conditioning. One new team member he was partnered with was Jordan Schmaltz, who played last season with the St. Louis Blues (although he was not on the Stanley Cup championship roster).
Schmaltz said about Sandin, “I didn’t even know he was born in 2000. That’s kind of scary for me. I’m used to being one of the younger guys. He’s a good player and a good kid.”
Tyson Barrie has arrived, as part of the trade that sent long-time Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and Travis Dermott won’t be available at the beginning of the season, so there will be movement on the defensive pairings and there may be a space for the 19-year-old Sandin.
Someone has to move into the holes that remain. Could one of those someone’s be Sandin? (from “Leaf Snaps: Bad timing for Neuvirth injury,” The Toronto Sun, 9/17/19)
Item Three: Lineup for Preseason Game One
The Maple Leafs play their first preseason game on Tuesday, Sept. 17, against the Ottawa Senators. There’s still a large roster filled with hopefuls. However, that first game will include newbies Barrie, Jason Spezza, Schmaltz, and Kevin Gravel. I’m anxious to see Spezza and Barrie play.
Several Marlies prospects will also be on the roster: Jeremy Bracco, Pierre Engvall, Yegor Korshkov, and Mason Marchment. Of those, I’m interested in Engvall and Marchment. I’m betting that there will be more Marlies on the big club this season than most people think, and I’m looking forward to it.
Item Four: Jason Spezza’s Small Window to Win a Stanley Cup
One reason Spezza’s excited about his first season with the Maple Leafs is that he believes the team has a chance at the Stanley Cup. At 36 years of age, he sees his window to be part of a championship team closing.
“That’s why I’m still going,” Spezza noted. “When you’ve played this long and haven’t won, it’s something you definitely think about all the time,” (from “Leaf Snaps: Russian rockets up the charts,” The Toronto Sun, 9/15/19).
Item Five: John Tavares Arrives Late to Camp Because of Baby Son
On Wednesday, 28-year-old John Tavares and his wife had a son. Tavares stayed in Toronto to be with his family as the rest of the team travelled to Newfoundland for their first preseason game. During an interview after he arrived in St. John’s, he said that he appreciates the time he was allowed to spend with family. He thanked the organization for giving him the first couple of days of the training camp off to “soak in every little thing he does.”
Tavares is known for his work ethic. An hour after the plane arrived, he was at the arena working out. Head coach Mike Babcock approved and noted, “He’s serious about his craft, he’s very professional, he’s very driven.” Babcock added, that Tavares, “knows what he wants and he’s not letting people get in his way.”
On Tuesday, the Maple Leafs play their first preseason game. It will be good to see the team back to the business of winning hockey games as opposed to all the other “business” that attends the NHL.